Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Bran III

“A face swam up at him out of the grey mist, shining with light, golden. “The things I do for love,” it said.

Bran screamed.

The crow took to the air, cawing. Not that, it shrieked at him. Forget that, you do not need it now, put it aside, put it away.”

Synopsis: Bran Stark dreams of the three-eyed crow, discusses the merits of flying vs. falling, wakes up, and names his wolf.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis: 

There isn’t a lot of political content in this rather short chapter, given that it largely consists of Bran experiencing his first prophetic dream. Indeed, due to his age and metaphysical connections, Bran spends much of A Song of Ice and Fire aloof from the world of politics. (Which will make some of his chapter analyses a bit problematic, but I’ll roll with it.)

But to avoid giving short shrift to this chapter, there is one thread that’s relevant to the political saga of ASOIAF – the question of Bran’s amnesia:

“A face swam up at him out of the grey mist, shining with light, golden. “The things I do for love,” it said.

Bran screamed.

The crow took to the air, cawing. Not that, it shrieked at him. Forget that, you do not need it now, put it aside, put it away.”

Why does George R.R Martin have Bran be the sole witness to Cersei and Jaime’s conversation, and then have him repress this memory for four more books? As a result of this choice, not only does the secret of their incest go unrevealed for most of the rest of the book, but so does their conversation from Bran II regarding what Jon Arryn was up to, their attempt to quasi-legally kidnap Robert Arryn, and hastening King Robert’s death. On one level, it allows GRRM to insert an important conversation that otherwise the POV model would prevent while preventing Eddard from learning the truth too soon. If this is the only reason, it’s kind of a clumsy kludge that we might need to chalk up to a writer still coming to grips with his material.

However, I think there’s something else, largely due to that crucial “now” and the recurrence of the “things I do for love” line later int he series. What it is going to be, I’m not sure. To be honest, I don’t have the best grasp on what’s going to happen with Bran’s story line in the series. I do have some ideas – we know from Bran II that he knows all about the secret tunnels in Winterfell that I think are going to be a bit of a Chekov’s Gun for the “Battle of Ice,” and we know from the Winds of Winter Theon chapter that Stannis is going to execute Theon in a godswood, giving Bran access to him. However, I don’t think there’s a lot of narrative time for GRRM to pull the trigger on Bran’s realization – Jaime’s heading into an ambush, Cersei’s heading for an epic train crash of her own making, and I just don’t think the Lannister incest plot is going to be that relevant for much longer.

On the other hand, there’s also the question of what Bloodraven is up to. One of the few figures in the series who has been a major actor in both the sorcerous and political worlds of Westeros, he seems in this chapter to be trying to push Bran away from involvement in the plot going on down south or over in Essos and towards beyond the Wall and the coming of the heart of winter. The “bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled on their points” (which has always bothered me; if thousands of potential greenseers have died when their untrained dreams lured them too close to the Others, why haven’t we seen any sign of this anywhere?) and his nebulous involvement with Euron suggests that Bloodraven is, in the rather callous manner of the former intelligence officer he is, trying to gather in as many potential resources as he can to fight the Others. Whether that comes through Euron Greyjoy’s control over Targaryen dragons or Bran’s greenseer powers, I don’t think he really cares.

Historical Analysis:

I don’t have a lot to say here. The only thing I’d note, following from the discussion of the Fisher King in Catelyn III, is the continuing theme of the wounded mystic. The potential references that follow from the idea of undergoing a sacrifice or injury in order to gain spiritual knowledge are encylopedic: the association with ravens and the loss of an eye brings in the myth of Odin who sacrificed his eye, pierced himself in the side with his own spear, and hung himself from Yggdrasil in order to gain wisdom (and the whole Tarot thing), there’s the various traditions of mysticism and martyrdom within Christian traditions, the symbolic sacrificial death and resurrection also found in Dionysian, Osirian, and Mesopotamian traditions, and the third eye borrowed from Hindu traditions.

So if GRRM is borrowing from the idea that a shaman undergoes a physical injury/sacrifice in return for spiritual power, then it’s possible that Bloodraven has been encouraging, causing, or looking out for potentially useful traumas, and it’s no accident that he chose Euron Crows-Eye as his pawn.

Whether GRRM has a plan here, or is just throwing as much imagery as he can at the reader so that they don’t forget that this is all important as he parcels out the more high fantasy elements drop by drop over the course of four more books, I don’t know. If I’m being completely honest, this is the one part of the plot where I don’t know things are going.

What If?

There’s really only one hypothetical that makes sense in this chapter – what if Bran remembered everything? On the one hand, this seems incredibly consequential; if Bran can transform Catelyn and Eddard’s suspicions into proof well ahead of time, Eddard can potentially find out well ahead of arriving in King’s Landing that Cersei is actively opposing him, that Jon Arryn was investigating the queen, that Cersei attempted to legally kidnap Robert Arryn, and that they’re contemplating hastening the King’s death. This would greatly speed up his investigations, and probably dissuade him from just talking it over with Cersei.  It might also put in Eddard’s mind to reach out to Robert’s brothers as potential allies.

On the other hand, as Arya will demonstrate later, it’s not entirely clear how much of this information will actually be accurately recalled and believed – but as long as the key issue of who tried to kill his son and why gets across, Eddard’s hand is potentially freed up for decisive action against the Lannisters.

Book vs. TV:

This scene was entirely removed from the show in favor of a more subtle connection with the three-eyed crow, although it’s quite possible that the show-runners will simply transpose much of this into the third season when the Reeds show up.

Instead, they chose to merge the killing of Lady with Bran waking up, which added a nice mystical wolf-to-wolf-to-human connection. Overall, probably an improvement, given how poorly the dream would likely have transitioned from page to screen.



38 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Bran III

  1. I consider myself a pretty well-informed reader, but I had no idea that Bloodraven and Euron Crow’s Eye were in league, besides their monthly meetings at the One-eyed Badasses of Westeros Club. When/where is this revealed?

    • stevenattewell says:

      Feast for Crows, I think.

    • corejay says:

      I recall this, too – specifically, Euron mentions dreams that coincide with Bran’s dreams quite a bit. Whether Euron consciously works with Bloodraven or not is quite up to debate, as is the question if Euron was Bloodraven’s favorite to succeed him until Bran turned up, or if Euron simply turned out to be unsuitable for Bloodraven’s needs…

      • stevenattewell says:

        Or if Bloodraven wants dragons up at the Wall post-haste. Or if Bloodraven is warging Euron.

      • corejay says:

        Yes. Even though I hate all those ‘Bloodraven is warging Bowen/Euron/Varys/whoever’ theories. It makes for bad storytelling, in my opinion. I prefer to stick to the known cases of animal warging (like Bloodraven warging Mormont’s raven) and just ignore the human warging cases until there’s actual proof otherwise.

    • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

      Euron has two eyes. One is blue and one is black. The blue one is his smiling eye.

      Here’s a Euron question did he hire a faceless man to axe Balon or is Euron a faceless man himself?

      • stevenattewell says:

        Now that’s interesting.

      • corejay says:

        I’m pretty sure he hired a Faceless Man. The Ghost of High Heart suggested as much, and her prophecies seem pretty accurate. He also said he threw a dragon egg into the sea, and since Balon ended up just there, this might have been Euron’s payment for the Faceless Men.
        Also, Euron’s maester seems to be pretty useless. I wonder if he really is a Maester, or if that is the disguise of the Faceless Man?

  2. Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

    Yeah, Master of Warlocks, Greenseer, Faceless Man, Captain and King. is there anything Euron can’t do….

    Here’s another question. They have Maestors, Septons, knights, kings, even a bloody Shadowbinder from Ashai….

    And they can’t get a single fucking pyromancer? How is Tyrion can come up with 11,000 jars and Mormont and Jon haven’t gotten their hands on one? If they’d had a few jars on the first of the first men…

    • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

      Here’s another question. At the wall, they have Maestors, Septons, knights, kings, even a bloody Shadowbinder from Ashai….

      And they can’t get a single fucking pyromancer? How is Tyrion can come up with 11,000 jars and Mormont and Jon haven’t gotten their hands on one? If they’d had a few jars on the first of the first men…

    • stevenattewell says:

      1. As far as we know, the Guild of Alchemists only exist in King’s Landing due to Aerys’ obsession with fire. Up until very recently, they were largely outdated quacks obsessed with malfunctioning spells and dangerously unstable fire – in a premodern society who live almost entirely in wooden buildings, these people would be deeply loathed by the public. Especially in the North, where the memory of Rickard Stark remains strong.
      2. While wildfire might have helped at the Fist of the First Men, I think it would be bad for an organization that guards a wall made of ice to make use of sorcerous napalm.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        Well, no. they’re wider spread than that Pate knows of the alchemists in Old Town. Davos knows all about wildfire.

        Regardless of public opinion it would seem to me that an ordered dedicated to fighting ice demons, ice demons capable of suppressing fire, that this order would have uses for wildfire.

        • stevenattewell says:

          Fair enough, I had forgotten that. However, keep in mind that the Night’s Watch has forgotten about their ice demon mission. As far as pretty much everyone knows, they’re there to keep out wildlings.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        I mean that is to say. Wildfire is easier to come by than a Dragon, and everyone seems to think the Night’s Watch needs a dragon. I’d probably rather have wildfire.

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        That’s true. The Night’s Watch has forgotten. But they still have maesters and septons and all the vestiges of what they once were. I just find it odd that there’s no evidence of them having or ever having had any alchemists. There should left over stockpiles of wildfire at castle black just like there are at kings landing.

        At any rate, once the battle of the blackwater reminds everyone how useful wildfire is… you’d think Jon would at least try to get an alchemist.

        Obviously, wildfire is green and weird and magical somehow, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t work on Others.

        • stevenattewell says:

          They have a maester, who is blind and cannot read the books they have.

          The Others haven’t been seen since the Long Night, eight thousand years ago. I don’t think the Alchemists have been in Westeros that long; my guess a few hundred years, probably imported by the Targaryens after the dragons died off. Likewise, the stockpiles were only made possible thanks to Aerys II’s support of the Guild, which was not that long ago.

          As for usefulness, keep in mind it’s equally as dangerous. I don’t think people would keep that stuff around.

        • mskby says:

          At one point in the books, however, the alchemists mention that their machinations had been weak, at best, since the dragons were no more. Perhaps at that point they were thought useless to have around?

      • Lord Littlefinger's Lash says:

        Well no. We know the Maesters supplanted the alchemists. We know the Maesters predate The Conquest, as they retrieved their glass candles before the fall of Valyria.

        Pate knew about the glass candles, though he had never seen one burn. They were the worst-kept secret of the Citadel. It was said that they had been brought to Oldtown from Valyria a thousand years before the Doom. He had heard there were four; one was green and three were black, and all were tall and twisted.

        So I think we can conclude the Pyromancers have been in Westeros more than 1,000 years.

        The substance was the pyromancers’ own term for wildfire. They called each other wisdom as well, which Tyrion found almost as annoying as their custom of hinting at the vast secret stores of knowledge that they wanted him to think they possessed. Once theirs had been a powerful guild, but in recent centuries the maesters of the Citadel had supplanted the alchemists almost everywhere. Now only a few of the older order remained, and they no longer even pretended to transmute metals…

        Its also not clear the Other’s haven’t been seen since the Long Night. The Night’s King was certainly after the Long Night.

        the tale of Night’s King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. “And that was the fault in him,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.
        He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.
        “Some say he was a Bolton,” Old Nan would always end. “Some say a Magnar out of Skagos, some say Umber, Flint, or Norrey. Some would have you think he was a Woodfoot, from them who ruled Bear island before the ironmen came. He never was. He was a Stark, the brother of the
        man who brought him down.” She always pinched Bran on the nose then, he would never forget it. “He was a Stark of Winterfell, and who can say? Mayhaps his name was Brandon. Mayhaps he slept in this very bed in this very room.”

        • stevenattewell says:

          I disagree. Supplanting doesn’t have to be a one-time thing. I think the Maesters came over in the wake of the Andal invasion, then got eclipsed following the Valyrian coup d’etat (Targaryens LIKE fire), then regained the upper hand when the death of the dragons weakened the alchemist’s spells.

          Night’s King was very shortly after the building of the Wall, most likely within living memory of the Battle for the Dawn. That’s still over 7,000 years in the past, and the NW records only go back to the Andal invasion, and they only have a continuous internal history from the 674th Commander.

  3. Linecom1 says:

    excellent point LLL, i never thought of why wildfire was not more mentioned in the histories of other parts of westeros, especially the wall. in a place like the north or the wall, id assume that alchemists and the use of wildfire might be useful just for heating purposes as the north is so brutally cold and deadly during winter. sometimes a strong fire can save your life.

  4. Alex says:

    Good post, but you seem to forgot that in CoK, Bran *does* remember the minutes leading up to his fall. It’s at the end of his second or third chapter, during a talk with Cley Cerwyn. He sits on the information, however, and after Clash his mind is presumably on other things.

  5. Raenelle says:

    The shadows looming over Bran’s family: (face of a hound) This must be Sandor Clegane, right? (golden and beautiful) Joffrey? (armor of stone with only darkness and black blood inside) Ilyn Payne?

    And a question regarding season 3, episode 5 of the TV show. Where are the direwolfs? If I remember Book 3 correctly, the next show is going to involve Grey Wind . . . a lot. I’m beginning to fear, given their fading insignificance, that I overestimated their importance–they’re more akin to Rickon than to the dragons.

    Also, R+L=J. Is Robert Baratheon a possibility for R, or is only Rhaegar intended in the formula? Jon is very, very dark, and the Baratheon seed is strong. I’ve searched a bit, and I wasn’t able to find out exactly how long Rhaegar had Lyanna in his control.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Right on Sandor and Jaime, but the stone armor with no head is Gregor Clegane.

      Dire wolves are used sparingly, because they’re digitally enhanced real wolves, and filming with animals is very expensive, because of the many, many takes.

      Robert isn’t a candidate. Rhaegar captured Lyanna over a year before Ned found her.

  6. Raenelle says:

    Oh. Right. The stone armor guy was a giant.

    And, darn–that Robert’s not a candidate. Are we sure (positively, absolutely) that Jon was a newborn? And that Lyanna died in childbirth? I’ve always assumed both, but I don’t remember reading both those things specifically. And I’ve read enough mysteries and watched enough magic shows to know that we can be led by clever artists to make faulty assumptions.

  7. […] knights to some other objective. Ser Percival chases a white hart into the domain of the wounded Fisher King so that the land can be healed (although in another book he kills a white hart); Ser Gawaine […]

  8. Jesse says:

    Soo I know that most of the talk on here seems to be more political. But I wanted to discuss Brans choice to name his wolf Summer. I always wondered if this stems from waking up cold and having summer there to warm him up. Or if it was about his dream. When he gets toward the end of his dream and everything is blinding white the three eyed crow says and now you see why you have to wake winter is coming.. Or something along those line. But my question is did his naming of summer have anything to do with that dream?

  9. […] his symbolism: Bran is clearly the winged wolf, wings being a metaphor for magic established since Bran III of AGOT; the grey stone chains symbolize both Winterfell itself and the chains of Luwin’s rationalist […]

  10. […] the context of ASOIAF. After all, Melisandre and Davos live in a world in which there really is a supernatural omnicidal force bringing about an apocalypse – so why assume that an opposing force couldn’t exist? Yes, R’hllor seems to […]

  11. […] reverse. Perhaps at one time, the Night’s Watch might have used skinchangers of its own to spy on the White Walkers? Regardless, this fact is absolutely necessary for what happens […]

  12. […] only explanation, to me, is that the sheer horror of the Red Wedding is so intense that the “dreamers” are picking it […]

  13. […] Bran VII marks a crucial step in Bran’s Hero’s Journey. He’s already had his Call to Adventure, his refusal of same, his Supernatural Aid, and now we get the Crossing of the First Threshold. […]

  14. […] the real-world mythology of the Fisher Kings, and the fact that House Fisher as the likely candidate for the first royal House of the […]

  15. […] keep magic magical – but the directionality is crucial here. This is something other than the relevation of the Heart of Winter, or any of the various hinges and other centers of power in the world. To me, anyway, the language […]

  16. […] into the Stark’s larger story: Bran’s climbing (which is intimately associated with his shamanic injury) is linked to his Flint blood; Theo Wull is linked ever-so-subtly to the fight at the Tower of Joy […]

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